Are all weed strains essentially the same?

Published Nov 10, 2019 12:00 p.m. ET
iStock / Yarygin

Some consumers believe that pretty much all cannabis products and strains are created equally, and that fancy titles and labels being touted are little more than a myth to sell goods. While there is some truth to this conclusion, it is important to recognize why this is the case and the benefits that come from a division within the same plant species before making such extravagant claims.

What is marijuana?

Cannabis is a plant species that is bred for both medicinal and recreational purposes, as the plants produce high levels of cannabinoids to create the effects that so many consumers seek. It begins as a small seedling or clone that eventually shows it’s sex. Male plants are nearly always exterminated because their colas are filled with seeds rather than flower, and females go on to produce the highly resinous crops that we all enjoy today.

Types of weed

Marijuana is typically broken down into two categories, including Indica and Sativa strains, with those that contain genetics from both lines labeled as hybrids. However, the difference between the two primary kinds is negligible at best, and stereotypes have fueled this misunderstanding even further.

1. Indica
Indica strains are short and chubby cannabis plants that tend to boast darker leaves and larger bud flowers. They do well in colder climates with shorter growing seasons and are hardy against pests and bad weather conditions such as hail or strong winds.

2. Sativa
Sativa strains are tall, lanky marijuana plants that can reach over 6 feet tall and produce smaller and denser buds. These cannabis plants fair better in hotter and warmer climates and do not withstand high winds, short growing seasons, or damaging conditions such as hail.

3. Hybrid
Hybrid strains often offer the best of both worlds, with a combination of both, so the variation of hybrids spans a vast span of displaying qualities that are similar to one type or the other, but the biggest benefit of this breed is that they are healthier more robust plants that are hardier than their predecessors.

What is hemp?

Hemp is merely a name that has been given to species of cannabis Sativa species that produce higher levels of CBD or more fibrous materials like stalks and large seeds. These products are useful for making industrials materials, clothing, rope, fuel and food, but won’t get you high because of the astronomically low level of THC.

CBD vs THC

The only true difference between recreational marijuana, medicinal cannabis, and hemp strains is in the cannabinoid content. Medical strains earn that title by consistently producing positive results when tested on specific symptoms or condition and by including fair amounts of CBD. Recreational strains are titled as such, thanks to high production of the euphoria producing element THC, and a nearly non-existent level of CBD.

Hemp strains have been selectively bred for centuries with an entirely different goal in mind to produce high yields of non-psychoactive plants, which is what makes these types of weed so different from one another. However, despite the great difference, all of these plants are originated from the same cannabis lineage.

If it’s all the same, why are there so many different types of weed?

Some of what we see on the market today is part of a ploy to deceive unknowing customers with wildly promising claims. It helps to set a standard where one doesn’t currently exist, even if it’s mostly made from fiction. While most hemp strains won’t get you high, some of them can produce relatively high amounts of THC, and viewing these plants under different microscopes when they are all essentially the same, can be great in terms of categorizing potential, but damaging for consumers who fail to understand how similar all cannabis species are.

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